The Wily Politician
Mumbai/Nagpur: Age may have slowed him down physically and the ravages of cancer deformed his face somewhat and slurred his speech, but his mind and his moves and maneuvers remain as sharp as ever.
Of course by now everyone would have guessed it is Sharad Pawar, the most shrewd politician of Maharashtra that I am speaking of.
In the just concluded, unprecedented four-corner elections his party may have emerged the fourth numerically ( the last) but right now he is the only one smiling and getting to chose what cards to play when.
There are many who firmly believe that it is Pawar who in the first place was responsible for the two groups – B.J.P + Shiv Sena and Congress + N.C.P – splitting right on the eve of the elections that left parties scrambling to find candidates to field from as many constituencies as they could. What ever the veracity of this belief may be, it is a fact that as soon as it became apparent that B.J.P and Shiv Sena were parting ways, the NCP also quickly broke off negotiations with Congress, finding many handy excuses to do so. “The Chief Minister did not defend us when allegations were made against our Ministers” to “The C.M. was very slow in taking decisions leading to development halting” were some of them. They did not explain why they did not protest and quit the coalition Government then and there if this was the case.
The real reason was that Sharadbhau had read the writing on the wall and knew there was no way the Congress-NCP combine was going to come back to power and he found no virtue in staying on with a losing side. Being loyal to his partners, or even his benefactors, is one quality no one can accuse Pawar ever of! It is many decades ago, but observers can still recall how he back-stabbed his political Godfather Yeshwantrao Chavan in 1978 when he first literally ‘grabbed’ the CM’s chair for himself.
After that, his political path took many twists and turns. He joined the Congress, he parted with the Congress, he allied with the Congress – he became CM of Maharashtra again, he left to become a Central Minister, he came back to usurp power from the hapless Sudhakar Naik – then he went back to Delhi as Union Minister. His love – hate – love relationship with the Congress carried on and one can say he finally has his sweet revenge with this party now. As the outgoing C.M. Prithviraj Chavan pointed out in his last interview as C.M. that the splitting of both the alliances has left the Congress with little post poll choice, since they could not ally with or support either BJP or Shiv Sena, while leaving all options open for NCP. Was this the final sweet revenge against the Congress that denied him the Prime Ministership when he was at a whisker’s distance from it after Rajeev Gandhi was assassinated? (Congress went with Narasimha Rao instead, who ironically could not get elected from his native state AP but had to be fielded from a ‘safe seat’ in Maharashtra!)
So though the BJP carried out a vitriolic campaign against NCP Ministers, which was a natural extension of their anti NCP stance in the Vidhan Sabha as opposition party – where interestingly the present C.M. Devendra Fadnavis, used to be in the forefront of the attacks – the NCP was not anti anyone in its campaign. Theirs was a most lack luster campaign in fact, followed by the Congress’.
What was more interesting than the campaign were the hints and the ‘leaks’ that came from some political circles stating that BJP – NCP combine could be one possibility that could emerge after the results. Try as vehemently as BJP leaders did to dispel these rumours, they refused to die or go away.
On the 19th October, when were results were still coming out but it had become obvious that BJP was not going to get absolute majority, NCP leader Prafull Patel was the first one to announce on the media that his party was offering its support to the BJP in Government formation. Unconditional support. Their reason for doing so was interesting “ we want to respect the people’s verdict” to yesterday stating “we do not want the state to face elections within months again, the economics of the state will be very badly affected”.
Where was this concern for economics and stability and respect for people’s verdict when in 1996 the BJP had first emerged as the largest party and Vajapayee tried to form Government in Delhi which Sharad Pawar pulled down in 13 days by voting against it as leader of opposition. General elections were held again and then again in 1998 and 1999. Three elections in two years – how did the nation’s finances accommodate this?
Mr. Pawar is also held responsible for the growth of the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra in his last tenure as C.M. when he had split with Congress to form Congress-S. His closeness to Balasaheb Thakeray is well known, as is his affinity to Nitin Gadkari now.
In short, this is the politician, who like a cat always manages to fall on his back and walk away unhurt.
His success at manipulations are in sharp contrast to the immaturity displayed by Sena leader Uddhav, who seems in a hapless position despite heading the party with the second largest number of MLAs in this Vidhan Sabha. People in Maharashtra at large and specially people of Mumbai are sorely disappointed that the BJP – Shiv Sena are not succeeding in overcoming their differences and coming together, while Pawar has all bases covered.
He knows that even if the two parties mentioned above come together eventually, the present CM and his team will be morally indebted to Pawar for his timely support.
… Sunita Mudaliar